A Look On The Lighter Side: A fable about the king of beasts

Judy Epstein

The King of Beasts was stalking through his domain, the forest, on his way to the summit. He enjoyed stomping along, roaring at all the other animals and shaking his golden mane.

First, he came upon a collection of animals eating a breakfast of Brussels sprouts. They were from 28 different species, but they all got along — until the Lion came into the room. The Lion was not happy.

“You are under the thumb of the crocodiles!” he roared at the golden eagle. “You let them sell you too much gas! As if cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts didn’t make one gassy enough!”

The Lion roared on and on.

One animal in the Lion’s entourage made a face, but when asked about it later, the Lion’s spokesweasel said they were simply unhappy with the selection of pastries.

The animals’ Council President, an elephant named Mr. Tusk, had already issued this warning: “Dear Lion, you do not have and will not have a better ally than us. And you should appreciate your allies — after all, you don’t have that many.”

But King Lion was having none of this kind of talk. “The days of mutual assistance are coming to an end,” he roared. “And why would I bother myself with you?” he said, shoving aside a lion from Montenegro. “You’re much too aggressive. Come to think of it, why would I lift a paw for any of you? Now is the age of every animal for himself!”

“Whatever happened to noblesse oblige?” asked the smaller animals. “Whatever happened to cooperation? Community? Or just picking on someone your own size?”

“That’s for fools,” growled the lion, and roared some more. “You just worry about bringing enough meat to the table to satisfy me!”

Finally, the Lion announced that all the other animals had agreed to his conditions, and so he had won. Then he stomped off to a nearby castle.

He had been hoping for a ride in a golden pumpkin, but instead arrived late for tea with the Queen.

When he reached the castle, the Lion roared again. This time, he growled about how the castle’s manager had ignored his excellent advice on trade agreements. He insulted her, then claimed that he hadn’t.

The Lion was still roaring when a little Mouse happened to run across the castle floor. The Lion lifted one paw to crush it, when the Mouse turned to face him.

“Please don’t crush me, O Mighty One,” squeaked the Mouse. “If you spare me, I’ll be so grateful; and who knows, perhaps I’ll even return the favor some day.”

“The likes of you helping me?” scoffed the Lion. “That’s a laugh!”

“Oh, but it’s happened once already,” said the Mouse. “Don’t you remember the famous tale, of how your grandfather spared my grandfather’s life? And then later, when your grandpa was caught in a trap, my grandfather Mouse gnawed at the ropes until your grandpa was free.”

“Well, that was then and this is now,” said the Lion, “and I don’t need any help from a weakling like you.” And he pounced, or tried to, but he was too worn out from walking the castle grounds without a golf cart, and so the Mouse got away.

Finally, the Lion reached his goal at the Summit. He met with his friend, the Crocodile, all alone for two hours.

“Isn’t this great?” said the Lion to the Crocodile. “Here we are — the two top predators of the food chain — with nothing to come between us! There is no one in the whole animal kingdom as strong or as powerful as us! And just look at how well we’re getting along!”

“Yes, it is very great,” replied the Crocodile. “And you are a fool — I mean, a very smart Lion — to be doing this.”

Then, in front of all the other animals, the Crocodile turned and swallowed the Lion whole — golden mane and all.

The other animals were unable to do a thing about it; the Lion had roared at them and insisted they stand too far back to be of any assistance. As a result, they could only watch.

“Who could have seen that coming?” said Mr. Tusk to the other animals.

“Not I,” said every other animal, in unison.

“It’s a good thing he didn’t need any help from friends,” they all agreed.

Not even the Mouse was sorry.

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